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Facts about alcohol and underage drinking in Portsmouth

In Portsmouth and throughout the state, there are concerns about teens and the dangers surrounding minor consumption of alcohol. Teens are often caught in instances of underage drinking. There can be numerous reason for this from peer pressure to simply wanting to partake in behaviors that are, legally, meant for adults. While many don't believe that this is a major legal violation, the penalties can be significant and cause teens problems long after the accusations and conviction.

According to Virginia law, it is illegal to try and purchase, to actually purchase or possess alcohol prior to the age of 21. If someone under the age of 21 does purchase or possess alcohol, the person will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. With a conviction on this charge, there can be a fine of up to $2,500, a year of imprisonment or 50 hours of community service. There might be all three. The juvenile will also be subject to losing the person's driver's license for up to one year. In addition, the court can order treatment for substance abuse.

Some might be under the impression that they can avoid penalties if the alcohol was purchased for them by someone who is of legal age. This is not the case. If a person buys alcohol and gives it to a person who is under the age of 21, the underage person will face a Class 1 misdemeanor with the penalties of up to a year in jail as well as a fine of up to $2,500. In some cases, teens might use a fake identification that states they are 21 or over and buy alcohol. This too is a Class 1 misdemeanor. There are the above-listed maximum penalties, as well as a minimum penalty of a fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service. The driver's license can be suspended for up to one year as well.

While many teens believe that alcohol is not harmful and its legality for those over 21 makes it the least of evils when it is compared to other possible alternatives such as drugs, the law treats minor consumption of alcohol seriously. When dealing with the juvenile law system for alcohol-related offenses, avoiding these charges is preferable, but lodging a strong defense when charged is a must to keep from having accusations turn into a long-term blot on one's future.

Source: Virginia Office of the Attorney General, "Alcohol and Tobacco," accessed on Jan. 31, 2015

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